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The Movies That Changed My Life: Kelly Reichardt, Director Of 'Night Moves'

by Erik McClanahan
May 28, 2014 1:05 PM
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"These are tough, this is like a little quiz." When we got a chance recently to chat with Kelly Reichardt, she was game if not a little trepidatious to take part in another of our semi-regular features in which we attempt to scavenge through a filmmaker's life in cinema, in hopes of finding out how the movies have influenced their life and work. The filmmaker's latest minimalist feature "Night Moves" which she directed, edited and co-wrote (with frequent collaborator, Oregon novelist and screenwriter Jonathan Raymond), begins rolling out to independent theaters across the country this Friday. In our review from Venice last year, Oli Lyttelton called the film a "perfect reminder that Reichardt is one of the most exciting directorial talents we have right now."

Please keep in mind that Reichardt was answering on the fly with little preparation. But we could've talked film with her for hours. When we asked her about her best moviegoing experience, her visceral, immediate response was "Oh, come on. Who can say?" But nonetheless, she provided some great fodder that opens a window to her own filmmaking: "When I'm watching a film, if I feel there's a dishonest overstimulation just trying to scratch some itch or serve something up, I become untrusting of the filmmaker right away," she said. "I like films about process and watching people do things, having to do some work. Some films if you really dig into them you lose interest in them quickly, and there's some films, like Todd Haynes' films or Bresson or Nic Ray, they will just keep giving."

So let us know if she passed our little quiz in the comments below, and make sure to check out "Night Moves" when it opens in your city.

"I remember standing in line to see 'Jaws' and growing up in the Keys and Miami that film just completely ruined my life."

How do you experience film these days?
It kinda depends where I am and what's going on. I'm in New York right now, and there's a Fassbinder retrospective at Lincoln Center. I'll go see a lot of those films. That gets me out. I've been teaching film for more than a decade now. There's a lot of seeing films with students in class. Up at Bard we had a whole Bresson series, and a semester of Ozu. We got prints of those films. That's convenient for film-watching. I see fewer films than I used to see. I used to be crazy at the movie theater all the time. I grew up in Florida which is like a cultural wasteland, and then I moved to Boston. I'd see films at school and then ride my bike over to the Brattle Theatre for a double feature every other night and then go to Harvard Square the nights in between. Everything was about movies.

Do you prefer going to the theater or staying home?
I'll sound so cranky saying this: my pet peeve with going to the movie theater is there's so much food. Listening to people eat in a movie theater—it's all nachos and buckets of popcorn... I try to go where there's less food. I know I sound old and cranky. [Laughing] I guess it was the Coen Brothers' film ["Inside Llewyn Davis"], I went to see on Broadway. It was unbelievable the amount of eating that was going on in that theater. And it's a really quiet film actually. The whole thing of turning the movie theater into being as much like home as possible... I teach film and it's really hard to get students to not bring food in to the class. Everything's about eating all the time.

The first movie you remember seeing?
I grew up with the 'Pink Panther' films which my dad was a big fan of. He was a crime scene detective. I grew up around a lot of crime scene photos, which were not G-rated. But for some reason the movies we went to were. I just remember seeing a lot of Peter Sellers as a kid.

The first movie you remember seeing at the theater?
I remember standing in line to see "Jaws" and growing up in the Keys and Miami that film just completely ruined my life. I never just laid in the bay or just hung out in the ocean carefree again. So it did make a big impression on me that a film could ruin something for you.

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  • Jacob Fehr | June 12, 2014 2:43 AMReply

    I couldn't agree more about documentaries. Comparing 'Jiro Dreams of Sushi' or 'Jodorowsky's Dune" to "Finding Vivian Maier', the lack of filmmaker presence on screen in the former movies is appreciated from this guy! I mean if you're making a documentary, why make it about you?

  • jim ponsoldt | May 29, 2014 3:21 PMReply

    i can't wait to see "night moves". i've watched "wendy and lucy" at least five times. "old joy" was a stunner. never get tired of observing the detail. the fine cast of "night moves", i'll bet, does a really good job. regarding walking out of movies, i agree with rdwd that doing that should be rare and never because a film appears to be "not very good". i've seen a number of mediocre films that improved significantly, and surprisingly, in the third act. but, occasionally, a film becomes unexpectedly offensive after being given redemptive opportunities and forfeits its audience. or should. i still usually see it through to the end, though.

  • RdWd | May 29, 2014 5:21 AMReply

    Surprised that Kelly Reichardt walks out of movies or turns films off midway through, even if they're not very good. As a film enthusiast that's an absolute capital sin of mine! It's all a learning experience for me!

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